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Discussion Starter #1
I've seen a lot of props, and I've noticed some annoying trends among them that need to stop.

1. "Come closer": A good 40% of props say a variation of this phrase, and it's incredibly cheesy. It immediately broadcasts that a scare is coming, and is totally overused. Really, any prop that directly talks to the audience in a friendly way is an instant mood-killer.
2. "Happy Halloween"/Halloween references: Sure, it's fun for the kiddies, but self-referential Halloween props break the illusion cast by the prop itself.
3. Pointy-hat witches: Yes, I know it's a classic image, (and it's one I adore) but it's also very uncreative. Not all witches have to look like that. I appreciate the ones that push the boundaries by wearing cloaks (Rising Swamp Hag, Hooded Witch, Swinging Swamp Hag, Matilda) or are based on an older concept (Flaming Black Widow).
4. Zombie Babies: Oh dear lord, how many times has this been done? I get it, it's another cute-turned-creepy idea, but it's clear that the ideas are running out. More dolls, fewer babies!
5. Needless gore: I subscribe to the idea that subtlety and atmosphere are the key to scariness, not blood. Several props can be very effective without making your house look like a cleaned-up slaughterhouse. A little is okay, a lot is pointless.
5. Reused audio/molds/mechanisms: This isn't relatable to casual consumers, but whenever a company reuses a prop's face or audio or even animation, it's obvious and seems very lazy. In some cases it can work (Chester the Jester or the Shotgun Blast Zombie are good examples), but in others it doesn't. I remember when Tekky started out, and all of their props had the same soundtrack.
Basically, I value originality and subtlety above all else.
One prop I have great respect for is Peek-a-Boo Penny. She's a terrific scare, who doesn't invite you closer, is properly creepy before her scare, and doesn't have a drop of blood on her. That's how it's done. You're left uneasy and curious when she starts up (you don't need to be instructed to watch her) and when she scares you, it's absolutely terrifying because you don't expect it. You think she's a static figure, or assume that she'll lower her hands. Both assumptions are wrong, since her head pops up from behind with a loud scream.
I can like the cheesy stuff, but I appreciate the props that try something new and understand what is scary.
 

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Going bump in the night..
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Sadly, this "trend" has been the industry standard for at least the last decade, if not longer.

From a fiscal point of view, it's financially irresponsible to create durable, innovative product for the general consumer: the cost would be horribly prohibitive.
(Have to pay people to come up with ideas, realize them into a prop, make the prop work reliably and safely, test them, retest them, have the lawyers okay them, and then consider what the cost of a production run would be, then there's marketing, distribution, blah, blah, blah)

So, sadly, it means we, the general public, are given a long repetitive line of look-alike props that are cheaply made.

However, from the non-Halloween-enthusiast point of view (read: NOT those of us on Halloween Forum), these products are amazing!
Which means those people buy them up. Which demonstrates to the manufacturer that what they're making is a marketable product, making them a profit.
Which means, in the end, they're going to keep making the same-old-same-old, and all we (the Halloween-enthusiasts) can do is weep.

Or make our own. Like many people here.
 

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I couldn't agree more - with all of those clichés you listed. I often have witches as part of my haunt (I once did a Salem theme) but not one of them wore a pointy hat. One of the most effective scares I've found is to have a haunter pick a TOTer and just follow them. A respectable distance (so they aren't sure they are being followed) and completely silent. They follow them all around the haunt, wait for them when they stop at a scene or the candy table and follow them out of the haunt and down the driveway. By then, most of the TOTer are running or screaming or both!
 

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Disclaimer: The following views are solely my own opinion, and are not meant to offend anyone who disagrees with me. Celebrate Halloween in whatever way you enjoy most.

My biggest pet peeve is what I call the 'store-bought trash museum'. When I worked at Spirit one of my coworkers wouldn't stop talking about how everyone always says her haunted house is the scariest so I checked it out. Basically you walked around her yard and she had 30 Spirit animatronics and some Jason and Freddy mannequins. There was no theme, there was no rhyme or reason to their placement, honestly it was about as scary as walking through the isles of a Spirit store.

I think store-bought items can be fantastic additions to a haunt when used correctly. I had a spider room in my haunt and the hidden jumping spider in the corner was one of my biggest hits. Almost as important as knowing when to use an animatronic is knowing when NOT to use one. That year I worked for Spirit I bought a ton of animatronics that I haven't even used yet because they haven't fit my haunts. I have future haunts in mind though that will be inspired by them. What use do I have for a spooky clown killer in a zombie theme? A Jason mannequin in the middle of a yard surrounded by zombie gnomes is not scary. A Jason mannequin hiding behind a scrim with a strobe light can be VERY scary.
 

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For the most part, that type of display doen't bother me (unless the one with the display is frightfully full of him or herself for having such amazing shopping talent). I know that the average person on the street has never seen (or doesn't remember) most of the props, so they all look new and scary. Not everyone is going to shine at everything they do, and I guess you can enjoy painting without being Vermeer. It does get boring for those of us who have been poring over the available merchandise all year, though. Yeah, even the purchased props need a little tweaking to keep them fun and interesting.
It's pretty clear that prop-producers are looking to maximize profits, but I think some of the changes would be pretty easy to make.
Shaking up the audio a little shouldn't really be a very expensive change.
Static prop faces-- think of how many different props use either the Haunted Helsa face or the Madame Misery face. The faces are not intricate. They could get some hungry first-year art school student to make a couple forms with a few slight differences. Machinery setup for a couple more vacu-form faces shouldn't cost much, and I'm sure they'd make enough extra sales to cover it.
I know number 5 is just a matter of taste, but from my own perspective, I do so agree. I put over-the-top gore in the same category as shock comedy. It's the crude, easy way to get a reaction. Let's have something clever and challenging instead.

Good thing we have alternatives to the low-quality mass-produced. It's a privilege to see what truly creative people manage on this forum!
 

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I think real creativity is a wonderful thing and I'm in absolute awe of some of the things I see members of this forum do, but when you cop some holier-than-thou attitude and look down your nose at another home haunter just because their entire display came from Party City you're going too far. Would you rather they not participate at all just because they aren't as talented or imaginative as you? I hope not, but that's exactly what a lot of this thread sounds like.
 

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I think real creativity is a wonderful thing and I'm in absolute awe of some of the things I see members of this forum do, but when you cop some holier-than-thou attitude and look down your nose at another home haunter just because their entire display came from Party City you're going too far. Would you rather they not participate at all just because they aren't as talented or imaginative as you? I hope not, but that's exactly what a lot of this thread sounds like.
Like I said, I'm not trying to offend those whose opinions differ from mine. If someone's idea of Halloween fun is spending hundreds of dollars at a Halloween store and haphazardly throwing animatronics on their lawn then I'm all for it. The money they spend along with mine keeps the Halloween stores in business which is a very good thing. :) What I'm saying is that everything in my display is there for a reason. The example I gave of Jason surrounded by zombie gnomes was what she actually had displayed. It evoked no emotion from me except curiosity, wondering what the point was. Walking through her display was like walking through an art museum. Walk up to the 1st animatronic, step on the activator, watch it move, go to the next animatronic and repeat. Jumping spider in plain sight next to jumping dog next to jumping snake. I don't criticize her one bit for using store-bought items, what I disagree with is that she just put them there assuming they would be scary all by themselves. Her only claim to 'scariest haunted house' seemed to be based on how much money she spent on props. Had she taken half of the props out and just put some logical thought into it, added some scrims, background noises, etc. and make it feel eerie it would have had a much better display in my opinion.
 

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I think real creativity is a wonderful thing and I'm in absolute awe of some of the things I see members of this forum do, but when you cop some holier-than-thou attitude and look down your nose at another home haunter just because their entire display came from Party City you're going too far. Would you rather they not participate at all just because they aren't as talented or imaginative as you? I hope not, but that's exactly what a lot of this thread sounds like.
I acknowledge I sounded harsher than I intened. I think most of the negativity on this thread is actually intended for the companies that produce a lot of unimaginative, low-quality same-ness rather than for people who decorate solely with mass-produced props. As I said, you don't have to be Vermeer to enjoy painting.
 

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Ok here is my two cents. Wicked grandma and I have a family home haunt. At least it started out that way. It has now become a rather large gathering with over 150 family, friends, friends of family, friends of friends (well you get the idea) arriving at the Haunted Forest for our one night party. It is strictly non commercial. I have several store bought props, Spirit included, as well as ones that make myself. I have static props, animatonics (also some I make and some store bought), and audio that is mostly the standard fair for Halloween. We never do a theme that has to be changed every year. We have witches, pirates, werewolves, singing pumpkins, fortune teller, static plywood props we have had for years, vampires, a large graveyard with animated coffins and skeletons leering behind tomstones, zombies, and all manner of various other halloween characters. Although each is in its own section of the Haunted Forest it is quite eclectic in nature. The Haunted Forest covers 10 acres and even if I could afford to do a single theme or new theme every year I wouldn't want to. I just add to it each year. Even though I do use some of the "unimaginative, low quality" props you mentioned everyone including me does not have the training, skill, or money to make one of a kind props that use all of the electronic gadgets, audio inputs, prop controllers and other gizmos that others may be able to do. For many home haunters like me it is simply more cost effective to purchase some Spirit animated props. (By the way...I have had very good luck with the operation of these props.) None the less, every year without exception, grandma and I get many comments from our guests that our little no theme home haunt with its pointy hat witches, Spirit ainmates props, as well as some nice animated props that I make, is better and more fun than many commercial haunts they have attended. Just sayin'.
 

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Meh, I don't care if it it's all bought at Spirit & Jason is next to Freddy next to lunging spiders & zombie babies, it's all inflatables, blow molds or the idea & execution of the prop came outta your own head & garage, as long as they're doing it in some fashion I don't care much.

We here tend to forget that Spirit is the Walmart of Halloween stores. It's mass market stuff, always has been always will be. It's not for those of us who will spend hours & money making something unique from clay, latex & mache, it's for the generic Halloween party giver & maybe the collectors too. Some must have every version of MIchael Meyers that's out there, some just want something cool to stand in the corner & be creepy & a little scary at a party.

Even if every single person on this forum stopped buying mass market props they'd still sell those props like crazy because we're not the ones doing the mass consumption of said products.

I also think some go mass market to get their feet wet with Halloween decorating in general. They may not have the time or talent to make an entire hearse from foam & skellys, but they can buy a $200 decent prop & realize this is kinda cool & fun & maybe they could do it better or tweak it next time.

As for actual complaints about the actual props, my peeves are non moving mouths when there's a speaking soundtrack & flashing eyes. It's the go-to default for way too many props.

I don't know where, when or how flashing eyes became the norm on almost all mass market props but it's gotta stop. I understand glowing eyes, but flashing in time with the soundtrack is just silly.

I have noticed lately that the witch thing is changing. They're not all stereotypical witches-with-pointy-hats any more which is good. Now if they could get on the same bandwagon with vampires. The only place you see real diversity in vamps is in the masks but the props seem to be stuck in the Lugosi Dracula mode.

The first company to make a full sized Christopher Lee Dracula prop will get ALL MY MONEY!!
 

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I dislike any prop that has music or sound effects mixed into the the audio track. For example why would there be thunder or organ sounds coming out of a reapers body? I am also not a fan of light up eyes on props that are supposed to be human.
 

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I have an aversion to red LED glowing eyes, I feel they ruin some props and actually detract from their creepiness. I don't have a problem with SH props, we have two SH animated props, (jumping spider, and Monkey Chimes) and I really like both of them. Although I didn't buy Monkey Chimes to be an animated prop, he is just going to sit in our nursery. We make most of our own props and detail our own sets, and it makes our haunt unique and I love that! My pet peeve is leaving the props in "store bought" condition. Almost every prop (static or animated) purchased from a seasonal or retail store needs to be properly re-distressed at home. Some are to cheesy, too bright, not bright enough, too clean. Almost everything I buy comes home and gets a make over.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Oh, I forgot about the eyes! I think the flashing is rather pointless. For the human props like Zombie Bait, it's pointless and stupid. Glowing is okay, though. It works for the Swamp Hag (and she even refers to her eyes) and the SV dolls pull it off okay. What bugs me the most is when the eyes stick out as LED, like on the Evil Rag Doll or Bleeding Bust. You can tell they light up because they don't match the rest of the prop.
Mouth movement is a pro in any prop. The only problem is, it's difficult to get it to work reliably without sacrificing the appearance. Dummy-hinged mouths work fine, but they look unintentionally creepy and unrealistic. However, when it's covered by a latex face, the mouth can move perfectly on one prop, but terribly on another one of the same.
One I thought of is the cheap materials. Most commercial props use very thin fabric that fails to conceal the inner structure of the prop, and the females never have enough hair. Regular consumers care about that, too. I've seen the online reviews.
 

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I dislike any prop that has music or sound effects mixed into the the audio track. For example why would there be thunder or organ sounds coming out of a reapers body? I am also not a fan of light up eyes
Dear god, YES.

I build my own props almost exclusively, but there's been a few items I would have bought had they not had random soundtrack in the background, and instead just had the prop speak.
 

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Yes to all that. I HATE glowing red eyes. Even worse are the props that 'talk' by blinking their eyes. What a waste of a controller. You can just as easily hook that electricity up to a tiny actuator in the mouth to make the mouth move instead of having it blink LED's. The cost difference between a tiny actuator and a couple LED's is probably a dollar. Ugh!

Other people are right, this is turning into a pretty negative thread. I think we're just seeing that even among totally devoted haunters there are still wide differences of opinion. I think that's what keeps it interesting. :)
 

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LOL...hey, we're all we got. We better stick together. Sometimes my haunts are great and some years I'm just too tired or busy to put tons of effort into it. I fear Halloween is going to go the way of the Wild West. I'm fighting to keep it real and fun for everyone.

I'm going to add that I also dislike a ton of gore. That's not what Halloween is about for me. But if you like, it....Do it.
 
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